Pairing the Elecraft KX2 with the Chameleon MPAS 2.0 at Lake James State Park

For the past four days here at my mountain QTH in North Carolina, I haven’t seen the sun. The cloud ceiling has been low and our house has been in the middle of it. It’s been rainy and foggy with temps floating a few degrees above freezing.

Last Tuesday (February 9, 2021), however, we had one day with glorious weather and I’m so pleased I carved out 90 minutes to perform a park activation on my way back home from a short trip.

I picked Lake James State State Park (K-2739) because it’s such a short detour and has numerous spots where I could set up my gear.

The temperature was a truly balmy 60F/15.5C–possibly even a tad higher.

Lake James State State Park (K-2739)

On my way to Lake James, I knew I’d use my Elecraft KX2 (it was the only transceiver I had on this trip) but debated what antenna to deploy. I chose the Chameleon MPAS 2.0 vertical antenna because, to my knowledge, I had never paired it with the KX2 and I enjoy shaking up my transceiver and antenna combos.

Gear:

The brilliant thing about antennas like the CHA MPAS 2.0 is how quick they are to deploy: it takes me all of three minutes or so.

On the air

Since the Elecraft KX2 has a built-in battery and built-in ATU, I basically connected the radio directly to the antenna and was on the air in moments.

The CHA MPAS 2.0 is the vertical equivalent of a random wire antenna: it’s not resonant on any one frequency and requires an antenna tuner to achieve a good SWR.

As I mentioned in the video (below) I always keep my expectations low when deploying a vertical antenna in areas like western North Carolina where ground conductivity is poor.

Maybe the antenna decided to prove me wrong, because I hopped on 20 meters CW and logged a number of stations across the country including Washington state and British Columbia with a measly five watts.

It also happened that my buddy and fellow POTA activator, Steve (KC5F), was just down the road activating another site in the same county. It’s rare that Steve and I can work each other because, typically, we’re too close for skywave propagation and too far for ground wave. Not this time! We were close enough for ground wave on multiple bands–it was great fun working him park-to-park on every band I tuned.

I moved from 20 meters to 17 meters, to 30 meters, 40 meters and back up to 20 meters SSB.

The great thing about using the MPAS 2.0 is how incredibly easy it is to pick up and move from band-to-band–there’s no manually tuning a coil or changing links on a multi-band diplole. In fact, the MPAS 2.0 covers 160-6 meters, so I’ve lots of options if band conditions are wonky.

Video

Here’s an unedited video of the entire activation:

Click here to view on YouTube.

In the end, here’s how my QSOmap looked with 32 stations logged:

I look back at activations like this and am reminded of the magic of HF radio. It’s truly phenomenal, in my mind, that with less power than it takes to light an LED bulb, I can make contacts across the continent pretty effortlessly–CW or SSB–even during the solar doldrums! Good fun!

In other news, my ankle is healing nicely and once this cycle of nasty weather clears, I’m looking forward to putting some SOTA sites on the air!

How about you? Do you have any field radio plans? Has the weather or C-19 lockdowns gotten in the way? Please comment!

6 thoughts on “Pairing the Elecraft KX2 with the Chameleon MPAS 2.0 at Lake James State Park”

  1. Hi Tom,
    C-19 has been in everyone’s pockets I think with travel bans in some countries. Eg for me 2020 has been a year with not much activations, normally I round a year with 270-300 sota points, now 2020 has brought me some 70 or so points. Only one activation abroad just over the border in Germany. All others were in Belgium. Also the bubble thing hits us, my buddy OT6V with which I do all sota activations is not really in my bubble so I can’t take him with me on our normal sota travels. As Belgium has not so many sota references we only did some in the beginning of the year. End 2020 I started GMA activations which is also fun and closer by. Once we are all vaccinated sota with my buddy will be on our agenda, for now we wait and wait…. ..

    Beginning 2021 EA3GCY announced a new kit radio, the EGV+, covering 40, 30 and 20 meters, so that’s what I’m building now, by the end of the week it should be ready, I hope no white smoke escapes any of the components …. .. The EGV+ is somewhat like the DB4020, only the EGV+ has only CW, it will produce some 7-8W on 40 and some 4-5W on 30 and 20. Someone in Greece already has it finished and he told me via Facebook he has 7W on all bands. Superb.

    I wish Elecraft started on a successor for the KX1 and K1, this time I will not miss it !!! Please Elecraft go back to your roots and give us kitbuilders some super transceivers which are small and handy. πŸ™‚

    Further this year we hope HAMRADO in Friedrichshafen will take place, however that will only be possible when vaccinations come through. Components are getting low, junkbox is empty, small hamfairs are missed…

    73
    Frank ON6UU

  2. Oh wow, Frank. Yes, C-19 definitely took a bite out of your field activities.

    Like you, I haven’t even gone on activations with my buddy Vlado (N3CZ) because we’re not in the same “bubble” and both of us have family reasons for taking the spread of C-19 very seriously.

    Much of the year, no matter how bad the lock-down, I can hike from my house to an 8 point SOTA summit. It’s much tougher late-spring to early-fall due to the foliage and it needs to be dry so that I can make it to the ridge line (it’s very steep). I will be attempting this in a week or so (weather pending) and am hoping the park service hasn’t closed the last bit of trail to the summit. I might hike 1.5 hours only to find they have. In that case, though, I can always activate up to three parks on the way back.

    I’m with you 100% on the KX1 successor. I know the KX2 is about perfection in a box, but I’d love an even smaller radio that could do both CW and SSB with controls as simple as those on the KX1. I’d buy it in a heartbeat! πŸ™‚ And to build it? All the better!

    If things go amazingly well, I might be able to attend a hamfest or two later in the year. I should think Huntsville might possibly be doable if those vaccines get out there asap.

    Take care and stay healthy out there!

    Cheers,
    Thomas
    K4SWL

  3. Be carefull with your ankle when going out for that sota Thomas.

    There’s a unbuild K1 on ebay for the moment, but I have already one. hihi
    I would buy and build those KX1s and K1s ones they are there πŸ™‚ We can wish, but will they ever become reality ?? Many hope.

    CUall
    73
    Frank

  4. Thank goodness that unbuilt K1 is a bit pricey for me! πŸ™‚ I think I’d buy it without hesitation. I did own one from about 2008-2011 or so and loved it.

    Cheers,
    Thomas

  5. Hi Thomas,

    Nice post!

    Good news: we have a cabin booked in the Adirondacks in August this year. That means plenty of SOTA, swimming, ice cream, fishing, and SOTA. Did I say SOTA?

    I’m still working through lightest antenna variants. I’ve always had great luck with QRP Guys 40-10m UnUn (https://qrpguys.com/qrpguys-40m-10m-ununtenna). I use it nearly every time I operate out of my vehicle using a flag stand under my car wheel and hoist it up with a 33′ MFJ fiberglass pole. Does the trick.

    But I’m still concerned about the weight of hauling an arborist line in my pack to get it up high enough. (Listen, I’m quite uncoordinated when it comes to getting a line up in the trees. As in not a good ambassador of ham radio.) Still, this should be lighter than my vertical setup which is a MFJ-1979 whip with Wolf River Coil on a Super Antenna tripod. Besides, a bunch of radials often means tripping on busy summits….

    I know there many opinions on the subject, but I’m interested in yours: lightest weight options for SOTA antennas with my KX3 and KX1….

    Cheers,

    Jack
    NG2E

  6. Hi, Jack,

    First off, I’m jealous of those vacation plans! Wow! You’re going to have fun!

    The QRPguys stuff is excellent. I just built their tribander.

    So I *just* purchased a smaller stuff sack to hold a second arborist throw line specifically for SOTA. As with the Adirondacks, the mountains here in western NC still tend to have trees and I’d rather not have to take a telescoping pole if I don’t have to (with that said, I’m contemplating a very backpackable one this year).

    I’ll report on the smaller arborist throw line bag. I’m hoping it’s compact and lightweight enough that I’ll be happy. With it, I would likely use an end-fed wire antenna.

    Though a tad pricey, Th AX1 would pair well with your KX3 (I haven’t tried it with the KX1 yet) and couldn’t be more portable. I would suggest keeping it around as a spare SOTA antenna anyway.

    Some food for thought. I’ll let you know in a post about the smaller throw line bag.

    Cheers & 73,
    Thomas

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.